Saudi aims to double desalination energy efficiency in $80bn investment

State-run Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corporation plans to invest US$80 billion by 2025 to boost desalinated water production to 8.5 million cubic meters per day...

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2016 01 Saudi Arabia

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2016 01 Saudi Arabia

State-run Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) plans to invest US$80 billion by 2025 to boost desalinated water production to 8.5 million cubic meters per day.

A rapidly growing population, on track to reach 38.5 million by 2030, and a staggeringly high daily water consumption rate, at nearly 1600 liters per capita, has motivated Saudi Arabia’s efforts to boost sustainable water production and curb skyrocketing demand.

As part of this ongoing effort, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Water and Energy recently announced a 50% increase in water tariffs for government offices and commercial firms.

The SWCC now produces 3.6 million cubic meters per day of desalinated water – a figure that will need to reach 8.5 million by the end of 2025 to keep up with growing demand, as reported by construction research firm Ventures Onsite.

The SWCC is also trying to double energy efficiency from the current level of about 26-27% to 54-55%, and is increasingly looking at renewables to achieve this target, as reported by Ventures Onsite.

Saudi Arabia has announced a number of pioneering projects, including Al Khafji – the world’s first solar-powered desalination plant (watch video interview).

Valued at $130 million and slated for 2017 completion, the photovoltaic plant – a joint venture between Advanced Water Techologies and Abengoa – will produce 60,000 m3/day of water to supply Al Khafji City in North Eastern Saudi Arabia.

However, a comprehensive, innovation-driven approach to water management is necessary to truly achieve sustainability in the country, said Dr. Abdullah Al-AlShaikh, CEO of Advanced Water Technology, a subsidiary of the KSA’s technology and investment company, TAQNIA.

“Technology plays a major role in solving the diminishing supply and increasing demand challenge in KSA. But it is important to remember that it is the bulk gathering or the critical mass of technologies applied to the complete water value chain, upstream and downstream, that will ultimately provide solutions,” said Dr. Abdullah, who will be speaking at the International Water Summit. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach. We must be moving on all fronts, simultaneously.”

The use of clean energy sources to drive desalination and wastewater treatment plants is a case in point for innovations, according to Roberto De Diego Arozamena, CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy and Environmental Services.

“Continuous improvement in how we produce or purify water and how we improve the use of power is key to sustainability,” he said. “New pre-treatment processes, nanotechnology filtering processes, and electrochemical desalination are either being explored or are already in use in various stages of deployments. Some of the new technologies are very promising in terms of their efficiency and energy requirements. However, commercial viability and scalability still need to be proven.”

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